Dr. Leslie C. Meyer (1919-2009): Still Enriching The Lives of Children Today
The Vision Was Born in 1954. Dr. Leslie Meyer recognized the value in every child, regardless of circumstances or disabilities. He saw the potential underneath. More importantly, he acted. He realized it was up to caring adults to give these children the chance they needed to succeed and reach their true potential. That’s why he founded the Meyer Center—and that’s what has been entrusted to us moving forward.
His Dream Lives On Today. What Dr. Meyer began sixty years ago is alive and well today. The Meyer Center has grown over the decades to become an indispensible part of our community. Even though Dr. Meyer passed away in 2009, his lifelong calling of helping children overcome their obstacles in order to reach their potential is alive and well today. Thanks to his example, we are poised for another 60 years of enriching the lives of not only the children in our community—but for all of us, as well.
At the time (1954), children with disabilities were not accepted in public schools. “Special schools for children with disabilities just weren’t done,” Dr. Meyer stated in 2007. “It was more or less thought that if a child was handicapped, he probably wasn’t educable. And that’s wrong,” he said. “It used to hurt me to go to the Shriners clinic and see those kids — there would be 50 or 60 in the waiting room on Monday morning. And most of them weren’t in school,” Dr. Meyer stated.
Dr. Meyer’s compassion for children with disabilities led him to take action. He learned of a school for children with disabilities in Boston. “I bought a plane ticket and went to see it,” he stated. He returned convinced that Greenville could have such a school, and solicited the help of a national group, United Cerebral Palsy.
In 1954, in borrowed space at Greenville General Hospital, the school, organized under the auspices of United Cerebral Palsy, opened. The school presented challenges. In Dr. Meyer’s words, “We were very poor. Some people felt we were wasting our time. It wasn’t easy.” Meyer, a brilliant surgeon and teacher, joined the staff at Shriners, eventually becoming Chief of Staff. He also served as President of the Greenville Hospital System Medical Staff.
Throughout his career, Dr. Meyer continued to support the Cerebral Palsy School, giving generously of both his time and resources. Dr. Meyer took on the job of Medical Director of the school on a volunteer basis and served in that capacity for more than 20 years. He served as its volunteer Medical Director for more than 20 years. The school was renamed The Meyer Center in 1977 to honor his vision and dedication.
Dr. Meyer had a long and illustrious career in medicine, serving as President of the GHS Medical Staff, Chief of Staff at Shriners Hospital, and Associate in Orthopedics and Lecturer at Duke University Medical School. He left his mark on almost every facet of medical care in the region. In addition, he received numerous awards, including the South Carolina Order of the Palmetto award and the Cathleen Lyle Murray Award, a national honor, from the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine.
Many words describe Dr. Leslie Meyer — skilled, dedicated, humble, compassionate, inspiring — the list goes on. He was most certainly a visionary. “You never cry about what you don’t have — you just focus on what you do have,” said Dr. Meyer, stating a powerful philosophy which has resulted in opportunity for thousands of children since the Center was begun. When others saw only limitations for children with disabilities, Dr. Meyer focused on their possibilities. Generations of families and children to come will benefit from the legacy of this great man — a place of help and hope for children.
Les Meyer's example invites us to find new ways to serve humanity ourselves, for his selfless life of service reminds us how fulfilling a life of good works can be.